'Person of Interest' in Alexandria murders held without bond

WHEELING W. Va. (WUSA9) -- Charles Severance, who Alexandria, Virginia's mayor calls a person of interest in three unsolved murders, was ordered held without bond in West Virginia. The ruling was made at the 53-year-old's extradition hearing Monday.

A West Virginia prosecutor says Severance is being investigated for the murders of Ruthanne Lodato, Ron Kirby and Nancy Dunning in Alexandria, Va. According to the prosecutor, when Severance was told that police wanted to question him about the murders he tried to seek asylum at the Russian embassy in D.C. Surveillance photos were shown in court to illustrate the claim that Severance is a flight risk.

Severance was arrested last week in West Virginia on a felony warrant for possession of a firearm from Loudoun County, Va.

Severance's next bond hearing is set for March 19 at 1:30 p.m.

The hearing for Severance's extradition to Loudoun County is on March 31. Severance's public defender objected to the March 31 extradition hearing because the timing wasn't "convenient," he said to the judge. Severance was silent as his public defender said he would fight extradition.

The judge said he'd consider the argument for a different date on March 19, during the follow-up bond hearing.

If extradited to Loudoun County, then Alexandria police might be able to ask Severance questions about the unsolved murders.


Arrest possibly connected to Alexandria murders

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Man Wanted for Questioning in Three Murders Described as "Odd"

We first learned that Charles Severance may be connected to the unsolved murders last Friday.

Charles Severance ran for mayor of the Alexandria twice and U.S. Congress once. His opponents in those campaigns remember a pretty "odd" character, who, at times, they actually saw as a physical threat.

When Severance challenged the incumbent Kerry Donley for Mayor of Alexandria in 1996 and 2000, the city manager and police chief at the time assigned an undercover cop to shadow and protect Donley.

"Just to make sure that everything was OK," recalled Donley. "They were concerned about this fellow."

The undercover cop was ultimately not needed, but perhaps Virginia Congressman Jim Moran could have used him during a debate when Severance challenged Moran for his congressional seat.

"I vividly recall one morning at the McLean Chamber of Commerce we had a debate," said Moran, (D) Virginia. "Right after we had pledged allegiance to the flag, Charles turned to the flag, pulled it out of the stand."

"It was like this flag here," he continued, pointing to a standing flag in his office. "Then, with the spear point, rushed at me. I laughed at him and deflected it and then he turned and rushed the audience."

"To say he was bizarre is really doing kindness to the word bizarre," said Donley, the former mayor of the city. "Severance dressed in this black outfit - black gloves, sunglasses, black hat - and in response to any question that he got he would launch into this diatribe about juvenile mental health services and prescription psycho-tropic drugs. It was really a strange type of campaign. He really just came out of the woodwork."

Some people see a likeness between Severance and the suspect sketch in the Ruthanne Lodato murder.

"When I first saw the sketch it alerted me that this is someone that I have definitely seen and I have said as early as a week ago to folks that don't be surprised if the person we're looking for is someone we've all seen, someone we have a relationship with," said current Mayor Bill Euille.

VIEW: Warrant for Charles Severance (PDF)

Police stress that he is not a suspect in any of the three unsolved murders in the city or a person of interest. They simply want to question him.

"We don't use those types of terms. We will look into all possibilities regarding his possible connections to this crime but we're continuing to investigate the crimes on their own merits." said Crystal Nosal, Alexandria Police Department Spokesperson.

Not knowing, said Alexandria resident Tracy Washington Enger, has been difficult.

"Part of what has been so stressful for people, aside from the fact that it's horrible and that they were all wonderful people and it's a huge loss, but I think for the community and the neighborhood is the uncertainty, the unknowing, the persistent threat."


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